Jukebox Heroes: Six forgettable MMOs with unforgettable soundtracks

    
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I have often thought it grossly unfair that a video game soundtrack is linked, for better and for worse, with the popularity of the game in which it appears. Sure, music is a crucial part of the experience and in many ways emblematic of it, but only recognizing an OST because the game has hit it big is a burr in my saddle.

Let me put it plainly: There are terrific MMOs with terrific soundtracks. There are great MMOs with subpar soundtracks. There are plenty of terrible MMOs with what I can only assume is a serial killer’s recording of chalkboard scrapings for a score. And — in light of today’s topic — there are quite a few incredibly good soundtracks that came from MMOs that are somewhat forgettable.

Maybe these games are far past their prime or only really took root in a certain region, but I keep coming across titles that have surprisingly robust soundtracks that get (pardon Rodney Dangerfield) no respect, no respect at all. Today I want to share with you six scores I’ve unearthed from games that have been all but forgotten by the modern MMO community.

1. Motor City Online

Yeah, just about nobody remembers Motor City Online these days. It was a racing MMO made by Electronic Arts that had a rather short run from 2001 to 2003 (reportedly canceled so EA could focus on The Sims Online… good decision, there).

In my quest to unearth MMO soundtracks, I didn’t even think of MCO until relatively recently when a friend suggested I check it out. I did and found myself amused and entertained by this high-energy rockabilly score. Yes, I could totally picture myself racing down the highway to these tunes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PmRttvQ4-A

2. Ragnarok Online 2

I know so little about either of the Ragnarok titles, other than that they exist and they are not quite the Viking action MMOs that I expected from the name. What I do know is that the second game’s soundtrack absolutely dominates the first, and in fact it is quite a bit better than many MMO OSTs I’ve heard.

This is thanks to the skilled composition of Yoko Kanno, a Japanese musician who rocks across several spheres. She brings so much good music to this title that it feels like a crime that one game is hoarding it all. Seriously, it’s awesome and deserves to be heard by all.

3. Granado Espada (Sword of the New World)

On Battle Bards we have this long-running joke about how the Granado Espada soundtrack contains every musical genre known to humanity. While this is not technically true, one certainly does get this impression by listening through this wildly eclectic soundtrack. Opera, techno, fantasy orchestra, ’70s funk… it’s all there and then some. And the kicker is that quite a bit of it is good, even if it’s all over the place.

4. Pirates of the Burning Sea

WildStar’s critically and popularly acclaimed soundtrack has certainly sent a lot of praise the way of Composer Jeff Kurtenacker (and rightly so). It’s certainly one of the best MMO soundtracks ever… yet it’s not Kurtenacker’s first.

Years before, Kurtenacker teamed up with Adam Gubman to work on the swashbuckling score to Pirates of the Burning Sea. And if you like WildStar’s stuff, then boy howdy, you owe it to yourself to check out this score. It’s strong stuff that’s enhanced by factional themes and stirring set pieces. An underrated classic.

5. Spiral Knights

No, I’d barely given Spiral Knights a second thought either since its launch, but I did find myself picking up both (!) volumes of the Harry Mack’s (Braid) soundtrack a while back. Really, really glad I did, too, because this OST has a peppy old-school video game feel that mixes synth and what I’m assuming is synthetic orchestra to create earworm tracks that I’m still humming years later.

6. Dungeon Runners

Oh, my poor Dungeon Runners (2007-2010). I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for this game ever since playing it back in the day and laughing at the silly satire that this Diablo clone slung at the MMORPG genre. It had a catchy little soundtrack, too, composed by Tracy W. Bush (World of Warcraft). Really different, bizarre, and even exotic at times, this score is a living testament to what Dungeon Runners once was.

MMOs are meant to be heard as well as seen, and chances are that music ties your memories to these games more than you might realize. Every two weeks Jukebox Heroes listens through a game soundtrack and picks out the highlights to share and discuss. And if you like this column, then don’t miss the author’s MMO music podcast, Battle Bards!
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Dajhryne
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Dajhryne

Siphaed Greaterdivinity  Nobody can sing “aahhh aahhhhhh ahh” like Helene.

Dajhryne
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Dajhryne

Rynn  Reminded me of this. Erutan adds some lyrics and makes a Final Fantasy 9 song her own:

Valkyrie Noel
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Valkyrie Noel

Kanbe It always amazed me how badly the fucked up Ragnarok Online 2; why would you turn one of the most popular eastern MMOs into a linear quest based shit clone. We wanted amazing music, diverse environments to explore, class progression, isometric perspective, and for our nostalgia to be updated not thrown in the trash. Thankfully we have Tree of the Savior even if it is a different MMO (and game design direction), it still tickles a lot of the things we love about the original RO.

quark1020
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quark1020

Kanbe It was so bad, it was shut down in Korea, of all places. Usually, for Korean (and Asian MMO’s in general) its a hit in its home country but a flop internationally.

Kanbe
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Kanbe

Darn I guess I need to actually listen to RO 2’s soundtrack. And now after saying that I feel kk I need a shower lol.
Just some info Justin since you dont know RO, the “sequel” was pretty much a flop that had almost nothing at all in common with the original. 2 was an increadbly generic game that pissed off fans and is generally treated as “the game that must not be named”
Sorry, you reminded me it exists after much hard work to wipe it from memory so had to rant a bit lol

xania
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xania

Music is important to the atmosphere of a game to me, so just having a good soundtrack raises the esteem of the game in my mind – and vice versa, great memories in a game make the music even more meaningful and wonderful to listen to.

The only one I can think of is hearing this particular track on the ArcheAge site and falling in love, despite never having any interest in AA itself.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMfu7YttOOc

Ehra
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Ehra

I’ve always had a thing for the Dungeon Fighter Online soundtrack, particularly because it’s really easy to copy the music files directly into your library. It has a really nice mix of music types:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=giTTYpQiJMk&list=PLD2A7E394F84B0FE7&index=10

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwzUv5U6AmE

Ironwu
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Ironwu

For me, music is the first thing that gets turned off as soon as I have access to the sound settings.  Totally breaks immersion for me; the game becomes just another game, and not the world I want to adventure in.
I do appreciate it though when the developers make a distinction between the ‘extra’ music added to a game, and the music that belongs in the game as part of the environment.  Such as radios, TVs, bands, and so forth that are actually part of the game.
But an overlay music soundtrack?  No thanks.

crackfox
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crackfox

Love that Dungeon Runners track – reminds me of the music from Stronghold.

BhimaJenkins
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BhimaJenkins

Siphaed Greaterdivinity

That song sets a mood, but it feels unfinished to me. It has the polish, but its missing at least some type of melody. It sounds more like environment music or a musical movement that a composer was still working on.